Mortal Kombat is a confusing mess of a movie that does a bad job narratively like any other video game movie. The action can be satisfying at times; Joe Taslim and Hiroyuki Sanada do a phenomenal job with their fighting sequences as well as selling us on their rivalry. Though a more interesting movie would have been how that rivalry got to where it was. They both even manage to deliver the clunky dialogue of the script well. The rest of the cast come across like they’re doing parodies of stupid soap operas.
The movie starts very well as we are introduced to Sub-Zero’s and Scorpion’s back story. The action sequences and gore set up a great story ahead but the new characters fail an already poorly done plot-driven narrative. You would expect a lot of gore from a Mortal Kombat movie and we get that in the first and last 15 minutes of the movie but the rest of the lore is meh. Instead of Scorpion, we are forced to follow the story of uninteresting characters who do nothing to carry the plot forward.
The villains are trying to kill off earth’s defenders before a historical tournament takes place so that they can win it for the tenth time and ultimately claim the earth as their dominion. Even after numerous mentions of this tournament and lore, we never actually see it build up. We get tons of exposition about the tournament and the first and second acts are all about preparing for the pending tournament. But the third act throws it all away as there is no tournament. Ultimately, you’re left wondering why the movie wasted so much time on it.
That’s probably the biggest problem of this movie as it’s about a plot that carries the characters and not the other way around. Even when we get to the finale, there isn’t actually any tournament, but rather just quick finishes. Of course, there is a great battle between Scorpion and Sub-Zero in the end but that rather feels forced. This is because Scorpion was never the main lead. The actual heroes are all two-dimensional characters without any arc. And we never even feel afraid for any of these characters. This is because the action always felt PG-13. Yes, the finishes were gritty, but nothing else.
Lewis Tan’s Cole Young is the biggest issue. The acting is fine but doesn’t complete his arc and his fight scenes are a bit underwhelming. He starts off as a struggling MMA fighter trying to provide for his family. His personal boundary is set by that. And then the inciting incident happens when Sub-Zero attacks his family. He’s thrown out of his comfort zone by that. Until that point, his character arc was going well but after that, he becomes just one of the side characters carried forward with the plot. Cole’s back story and lineage only create more questions and confusion and the movie really falls apart around this character and the world attempting to make the audience care for him.
The other characters themselves are also not fleshed out in a meaningful way. The story arcs that may have been more interesting to explore are replaced by uninteresting plot movers. A good example of this is how Jessica McNamee’s Sonya Blade and Mehcad Brooks’ Jax are treated. They are special forces operators, yet Sonya is presented as a disillusioned conspiracy nut who is collecting other chosen ones though she isn’t one. But what led her and Jax to do this? Did Jax, with no development, just come along for the ride? Is the operation sanctioned by the US government? If so, why is she in a trailer with no resources? At least Sonya’s choreography was well executed. And McNamee clearly worked hard as it is the best behind Scorpion and Sub-Zero. But all the characters just feel rushed and empty with too many important questions just dangling in the air.
Mortal Kombat’s action and set-pieces are a 50-50 split. The opening and closing acts are amazing as hell but the action sequences in the middle are average. This is, as previously mentioned, because of the actual fight scenes feeling PG-13. If only the rest of the action was made with the same gore as their respected finishes. This is also held down by the poor Cinematography. The quick-camera edits during the action sequences were probably the worst idea. That never actually made us experience a move to its full potential. The Production and Visual designs were amazing, though. The team did well with the source materials as every detail was decent. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the score. It’s completely forgettable and does nothing to impact the already awful plot. The Editing as well is very poor.
If you want to watch people randomly thrown together punching each other with some occasional “damn” moments, then this movie will suffice. But if you’re looking for the next universe like the Monster Verse to get into or need more than some blood on the screen, then you will likely not going to like this movie. If you don’t have a chance to watch, then you aren’t missing anything. If you do get a chance to watch it, then it’s not the worst film you could pick.
K- Score: 42%
STW: 8/30, D: 12/25, C: 3/8, E: 1/5, PVD: 10/12, A: 4/10, S: 4/10
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